3 Ways to Speed Up Your Website (And Increase Conversions and Traffic)

Every so often, we’ll hear from a potential client that their website is just … so … slow.

Whether it starts loading and hangs mid-way through the process, or just seems to take a long time to load anything, a slow website isn’t just annoying to your users – it can legitimately hurt your bottom line.

Consider this. According to KISSmetrics, a digital marketing and analytics service, a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. That’s huge. If you run an e-commerce site with a poor loading time, you could be leaving serious money on the table.

In fact, if your site doesn’t load within 10 seconds, your users are almost guaranteed to leave and do something else. According to Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group:

10 seconds keeps the user’s attention. From 1–10 seconds, users definitely feel at the mercy of the computer and wish it was faster, but they can handle it. After 10 seconds, they start thinking about other things, making it harder to get their brains back on track once the computer finally does respond.

A 10-second delay will often make users leave a site immediately. And even if they stay, it’s harder for them to understand what’s going on, making it less likely that they’ll succeed in any difficult tasks.

And to think we all used to live with dial-up Internet. Wow.

Common sense can help you understand why faster sites have a better conversion rate, but if you want to dig into the stats, check out this infographic by WebpageFX.

But there’s more. Faster sites are actually more likely to be promoted in search results. While there’s been some questions about the direct correlation, Google has said that site speed is a ranking factor they look at in their algorithm. And just like with secure sites, it’s not just worth doing just because Google says to — it’s also a best practice.

So if your site is loading slower than you’d like, or you want to find low-hanging fruit to increase your conversions, what can you do?

Here are three ways to speed up your website.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Over time, it’s likely your site has grown in both functionality and size.

If you’re using WordPress, you’ve probably checked out a few plugins to see if they could help. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t – but you’ve probably got something running you don’t need.

Get rid of it. If it’s not doing anything, deactivate it. Delete it. Remove it from your website.

Any additional scripts or code or unused functionality on your site can slow down the entire experience. If it’s not being used, it shouldn’t be there.

If you’re running ads from multiple ad networks, simplify and use one. If you have a lot of social media integrations, consider cutting them down to what you really need to promote.

Find Specific Problems and Rectify Them

If it’s not obvious to you what the problems are, there are plenty of tools at your disposal.

We’ve talked previously about the Pingdom Website Speed Test: start there. Using their Waterfall layout, you can see the elements loading on your site, the order they load in, and how long each takes to load. This gives you great idea of what’s taking a long time to load and what to fix first. If there’s any files that can’t be loaded (missing images, third-party plugins, etc.), it’ll also list them – fix those.

You can also see the file size of each item that loads on your site, so if you have large images or videos, you may consider compressing them to a smaller size or hosting on a third-party site.

Google also provides a PageSpeed Insights tool, which analyzes your site and makes recommendations on improving site speed. And not only does it make grade your desktop site, but it also looks at your mobile (responsive) site and makes suggestions as well.

Find a Better Host

Thankfully, it’s becoming rarer that I tell a potential client that they’re using a cheap web host, but it still happens.

Your hosting still has a huge effect on your site speed. If you’re on a shared server that isn’t managed correctly, your site will be affected by the other sites on that server. If the server response time is poor, it can hurt your load time. If your server seems to go down with some regularity (and it’s not your fault), you should move web hosts.

Some hosts implement their own caching that can help with site speed, like WPEngine and MediaTemple’s WordPress hosting. This can be useful for improving your site speed.

Jason Unger
About Jason Unger
Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink, the creative and digital team that builds brands and helps companies grow. Based outside of Washington, D.C., Jason has done it all, from website strategy, design, development, troubleshooting, maintenance, content and marketing.